Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obvious studies of the year

After posting some retracted science stories, here are some true ones. SciAm reports:
Nonetheless, some studies really take the cake in the "duh" department, discovering things that were already obvious. Here are findings from this year that should come as little surprise.

1. Unsafe sex is more likely after drinking
2. Men appear confident by suppressing fear, pain and empathy
3. Smoking pot and driving isn't safe
4. Pigs love mud
5. Fashion magazines glorify youth
6. People with generous partners have happy marriages
7. Parents don't think their kids are doing drugs
8. People aren't doing anything in particular on the Internet
9. Restricting driver's licenses decreases teen fatalities
10. Most shoppers ignore nutrition labels
A reader adds:
You missed the article that said, The first humans out of Africa engaged in interbreeding for tens of thousands of years. That article was just plain stupid.
Maybe obvious, but it is still a minority view. The mainstream idea has been that humans came out of Africa, and have not evolved since then.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Retracted science stories

2011 had several big stories of previous science stories being wrong. Lists are at NPR and MSNBC. For more, see Retraction Watch. Some fields are more vulnerable than others. Most big medical studies are not replicated. Many psychology studies are bogus. Even physics may soon be retracting the story about neutrinos going faster than light.

Disparities in school discipline

The Wash. Post reports:
Across the Washington area, black students are suspended and expelled two to five times as often as white students, creating disparities in discipline that experts say reflect a growing national problem. ...

Experts say disparities appear to have complex causes. A disproportionate number of black students live below the poverty line or with a single parent, factors that affect disciplinary patterns. But experts say those factors do not fully explain racial differences in suspensions. Other contributing factors could include unintended bias, unequal access to highly effective teachers and differences in school leadership styles.
Are those really the only explanations that the experts can imagine? They ought to at least consider IQ, future time orientation, ADD, and drug use. And whether the students are discipline problems in other settings.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why psychoanalysis never existed

NewScientist reports:
THE name Sigmund Freud is inextricable from psychoanalysis. And vice versa. But why? And how did the two wind up in the same cultural basket as Copernicus and Darwin?

In The Freud Files, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani have a tangled tale to tell but their mission is clear: "We should hurry to study psychoanalysis whilst we can," they write, "for we will soon no longer be able to discern its features - and for good reason: because it never was." The pair argue that without the Freud legend the "identity and radical difference [of psychoanalysis] from other forms of psychotherapy collapse".

Attempts to debunk the legend in the 1970s and 80s failed. But a current assault, helped by a wealth of "declassified" material, correspondence and critical studies, looks more likely to dismantle the monomyth. The Freud Archives, a collection of letters and papers, were deposited at the US Library of Congress by Freud's daughter, Anna, to put them out of reach of unofficial biographers. This move also locked away Freud's patients' versions of their own problems.

But now, as primary material is made public, parts of the archive are declassified and his letters re-edited without censorship, the legend is "fraying from all sides".
The book costs $95. I will pass. If the field had any integrity, Freud would have been disavowed as a kook a century ago.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Govt-funded evolution site gives religious opinions

I criticized a Cal Berkeley evolution web site in 2004:
I guess these evolutionists think that it is okay to use religion to promote evolution, but unconstitutional to allow religious criticism of evolution.
Now leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne attacks the same web site:
Now I’m sure that when the NSF gave money to the Cal Museum of Paleontology, it had no idea that taxpayers’ money would go to fund theology — for that’s exactly what this kind of accommodationism is — but we need to be aware of what message taxpayer–funded institutions are putting out to the public. (Berkeley is a state university) My position has always been that scientific organizations, particularly ones funded by the taxpayers, should say nothing about the compatibility of science and faith.
He personally believes that evolution disproves religion, but I guess that he does not advocate forcing that view on others.

The evolutionists seem to be split into two camps -- the new atheists who believe that evolution disproves religion and that religion is evil anyway, and the accommodationists who insist on telling us which religions are acceptable and which are not.

Either way, evolutionists are on the warpath against religion in a way that other scientists are not. It is no wonder that religious folks are offended. Their tax money is used to put down their religious views. I think that we would all be better off if the evolutionary scientists would stick to the science. But they do not. Almost all of them try to use their evolutionary views to justify unscientific opinions about religion and politics.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Genes Play Major Role in Behavior

Liberals like to deny that people have any innate differences, but the NY Times reports:
Social behavior among primates — including humans — has a substantial genetic basis, a team of scientists has concluded from a new survey of social structure across the primate family tree.

The scientists, at the University of Oxford in England, looked at the evolutionary family tree of 217 primate species whose social organization is known. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, challenge some of the leading theories of social behavior,
This might be exaggerated, because they did not find any actual genes. It has been known for millennia that behavior is a complex combination of nature and nurture, and modern research has not changed that. But they do apply it to human nature:
The Oxford survey confirms that the structure of human society, too, is likely to have a genetic basis, since humans are in the primate family, said Bernard Chapais, an expert on human social evolution at the University of Montreal. ...

Human multifamily groups may have arisen from the gorilla-type harem structure, with many harems merging together, or from stable breeding bonds replacing sexual promiscuity in a chimpanzee-type society, Dr. Chapais said.
I am waiting for the follow-up editorial on why this shows that we should not expect Mexican, Arab, and Chinese immigrants to assimilate into American culture.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free will and the unconscious

Here is research claiming that we have an unconscious mind, and no free will.
Scientific American Mind says:
Sigmund Freud popularized the idea of the unconscious, a sector of the mind that harbors thoughts and memories actively removed from conscious deliberation. Because this aspect of mind is, by definition, not accessible to introspection, it has proved difficult to investigate. Today the domain of the unconscious — described more generally in the realm of cognitive neuroscience as any processing that does not give rise to conscious awareness — is routinely studied in hundreds of laboratories using objective psychophysical techniques amenable to statistical analysis.
A Berkeley leftist cognitive scientist explains in this video:
Prof. George Lakoff - Reason is 98% Subconscious
The London Telegraph reports:
For a man who thinks he's a robot, Professor Patrick Haggard is remarkably cheerful about it. "We certainly don't have free will," says the leading British neuroscientist. "Not in the sense we think." It's quite a way to start an interview.

We're in the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, in Queen Square in London, the nerve centre – if you will – of British brain research. Prof Haggard is demonstrating "transcranial magnetic stimulation", a technique that uses magnetic coils to affect one's brain, and then to control the body. One of his research assistants, Christina Fuentes, is holding a loop-shaped paddle next to his head, moving it fractionally. "If we get it right, it might cause something." She presses a switch, and the coil activates with a click. Prof Haggard's hand twitches. "It's not me doing that," he assures me, "it's her."
This stuff is interesting, but I don't think that it is persuasive about free will or the unconscious.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Freakonomics: What went wrong?

Statistician Andrew Gelman documents what's wrong with Freakonomics:
The nonfiction publishing phenomenon known as Freakonomics has passed its sixth anniversary. The original book, which used ideas from statistics and economics to explore real-world problems, was an instant bestseller. By 2011, it had sold more than four million copies worldwide, and it has sprouted a franchise, which includes a bestselling sequel, SuperFreakonomics; an occasional column in the New York Times Magazine; a popular blog; and a documentary film. The word “freakonomics” has come to stand for a light-hearted and contrarian, yet rigorous and quantitative, way of looking at the world.
Steve Levitt was a big hero to the Left when he was giving bogus arguments in favor of abortion. He fell out of favor when he gave arguments against global warming. Now he has been shown to be completely wrong on many subjects.

Steve Sailer says:
It’s unfair to denigrate Levitt and Dubner without comparing the reliability of the Freakonomics brand to that of their chief rival, the Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker Brand. My view is that Levitt and Dubner are more trustworthy than Gladwell by a comfortable margin.
Yes, Levitt has the virtue of being sometimes correct. The New Yorker is read for its literary style, and not for the correctness of its essays. It is famous for fact-checking the details, and getting the big picture wrong.

It is funny how someone can get away with being a public intellectual and giving bogus arguments, as long as he stays politically correct. As soon as he steps on the wrong political toes, then he gets criticized.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Statute of limitations for sex crimes

A CNN columnist writes:
There are various reasons why we have statutes of limitations for crimes, other than the worst felonies, and for torts. Memories fade. Witnesses die. Evidence goes bad. We want to encourage plaintiffs to bring suit as quickly after the alleged injury as possible. Potential defendants should be able to get on with their lives without worrying about getting charged or sued for acts alleged from long ago. If anyone could sue anyone at anytime it would further clog an already congested legal system. In most cases, this all makes sense.

Not so for child sexual abuse. The very nature of the crime is predicated on secrecy and shame and manipulation. It often takes years, decades even, for victims to grasp what has happened: that an adult, often a trusted authority figure or a family member, did horribly wrong by them. ...

Over the objections of numerous groups -- insurance lobbies, teachers unions, Roman Catholic clergymen -- some states have decided to suspend the statute of limitations for these crimes, a tacit recognition of the unique dynamics of child sex crimes. Delaware recently suspended the statute of limitations for two years, creating a window for those previously time-barred to come forward. More than 100 alleged victims emerged.

In California, a similar suspension spurred more than 300 lawsuits, some dating back to episodes from the 1950s. "It's clear that it can take a long, long time before victims are ready to confront abuse and everything that can come with it," says Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Cardozo Law School and a lawyer for one of the accusers in the Sandusky case. "It's just wrong to have [policy] that favors the predator."
This is backwards. The more horrible and harmful the crime, the more we need the statute of limitations.

Yes, of course suspending the statute of limitations will encourage lawsuits. When people find out that the Catholic Church had hundreds of millions of dollars to pay out against claims, then they have a recovered memory about some allegation from decades ago.

When I hear a sex crime allegation, I ask myself: Is the charge plausible? Was there a contemporaneous complaint? Is there physical evidence? Does the accuser have an ulterior motive to make a false accusation?

I never believed the accusations in the McMartin preschool trial or Duke lacrosse case or Michael Jackson trial or DSK case for just those reasons. Implausible stories. No hard evidence. Non-credible accusers. And I am dubious about the Penn State sex abuse scandal for just those same reasons.

Yes, sex abuse is bad. If it happens, report it to the police and get the physical evidence. Sex abuse is universally considered abominable, and no police cover up these crimes. The perps are always prosecuted and convicted. But when someone says that it is so bad that the usual rules of justice have to be suspended, I get worried.

The Pann State accusers all have this in common: They did not make a prompt complaint. They have no witnesses. They have no physical evidence. The allegations are about events many years ago. And they are suing for millions of dollars. The only exception is McQueary, but he is not credible for other reasons. He has changed his story. His grand jury story is implausible. He traded his testimony for immunity. And he is a morally damaged man himself.

It is possible that jurors will ultimately find McQueary persuasive, but his story hinges on details of conversations from 2002. Most people are unable to remember a 9-year-old conversation, and our justice system has no way of resolving a discrepancy between two different accounts of a 9-year-old conversation.

We laugh at medieval prosecutors who convicted witches, but we have our own witch-hunts.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Barry Bonds sentenced

Baseball hero Barry Bonds was sentenced today:
The Barry Bonds case is over. Bonds, as we speak, is being sentenced. The penalty: 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation and 250 hours of community service. This, by the way, is what the probation office recommended. Prosecutors were seeking a 15 month jail term.

In handing out her sentence, the judge observed that she agreed with the jury that Bonds tried to obstruct justice. Just that he failed. She noted that he did not threaten witnesses, for example. When I first read his grand jury testimony three and a half years ago I observed the same thing. You can tell Barry wanted to perjure himself. He just was pretty damn bad at it.

The judge also noted that the sentence took into account that Bonds has a strong record of philanthropy, much of which is unpublicized. Weighing against that, I presume, is that he is a lousy stinkin’ cheater who robbed some sportswriters of their childhood memories.
Prosecutors spent 10 years and millions of dollars on this base. Bonds was not convicted of perjury or of using steroids. I defy anyone to explain to me what he did wrong. He did not obstruct anyone being prosecuted. At worst, he gave an incomplete answer to a question. If anyone was at fault, it was the prosecutor for not asking a followup question at the grand jury hearing.

A lot of people hate Bonds, and today they will be cheering that Bonds is disgraced. I am glad that he "robbed some sportswriters of their childhood memories." He was a great baseball player. I hope that he convinces the appeals court that it was not a crime for him to have given an incomplete answer to the grand jury.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Moderate Islam is not moderate

The leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
I keep looking for the “moderate” form of Islam in the Middle East, but have trouble finding it. I guess its main home is elsewhere. But I’ve recently come across four items that bear witness to the hatred of Muslims for Jews (I’m not claiming it’s not reciprocal), and to the fact that religion poisons everything. ...

Here’s a twelfth-grade textbook from Saudi Arabia: ... The struggle with the Jews is not political but religious. ... The Jews spread corruption and fitna [chaos and internecine rancor]. ... The Qur’an describes the corruption of the Jews. ... Jihad will force the Jews out of Palestine. ...

If this stuff is drilled into you at age twelve, what are you going to believe? And it further shows, as I’ve argued before, that a huge element of radical Islam is based not on politics, disaffection, or dispossesion, but simple religion-based emnity. Do we deny that these people believe what they say? ...

Finally, to round things out, and show that Islamic viciousness is not limited to the Middle East, ...

Is there anyone who doubts that, considering all major religions, Islam is the most pernicious. Of course Catholicism gives it a run for its money.
I was with him until that last sentence. Catholicism does not teach anything like those things. Coyne is mainly on the warpath against evangelical Christians who do not accept the macro-evolution of men descending from lower animals, but Catholics accept evolution. Coyne does argue that the Pope doesn’t understand evolution and that the Adam and Eve story cannot be reconciled with modern genetics. Okay, fine, I am sure Coyne understands evolutionary science better than the Pope. Coyne's main complaint is the Pope said evolution being a product of random mutation without mentioning natural selection. But the Catholic Church does not encourage or condone suicide bombers.

A recent study said:
80% of U.S. mosques provide their worshippers with jihad-style literature promoting the use of violence against non-believers and that the imams in those mosques expressly promote that literature.
No Catholic churches promote violence against non-believers.

Since Coyne is of Jewish descent, I will round this out with a couple of things I recently learned about Judaism. The Bible (Old Testament) says:
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations...then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy." Deuteronomy 7:1-2, NIV.

" not leave alive anything that breaths. Completely destroy the Lord your God has commanded you..." Deuteronomy 20:16, NIV.
One of the weirder anti-Jewish stories is that Jews cannot be trusted because once a year, they all get together and say a prayer that all their promises to non-Jews will be broken. That is not quite right. Here is what Wikipedia says about the Day of Atonement prayer, known as Kol Nidre:
"All personal vows we are likely to make, all personal oaths and pledges we are likely to take between this Yom Kippur and the next Yom Kippur, we publicly renounce. Let them all be relinquished and abandoned, null and void, neither firm nor established. Let our personal vows, pledges and oaths be considered neither vows nor pledges nor oaths."

The leader and the congregation then say together three times "May all the people of Israel be forgiven, including all the strangers who live in their midst, for all the people are in fault." The Torah scrolls are then replaced, and the customary evening service begins.
I do not wish to imply some sort of equivalence between Islam and Judaism. The overwhelming majority of the Jews do want to peacefully coexist with the Arabs, and Jewish textbooks do not teach violence and hatred like the Mohammedan textbooks. The book of Deuteronomy is in the Christian Bible also, but Christians (and Jews) are not taught to destroy their enemies.

Some religions are better than others. Everybody believes that, even if they think that it is rude to point out the differences.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bogus atheist distrust study

A study on distrust of atheists was widely reported in many newspapers, including USA Today:
Psychologists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon say that their study demonstrates that anti-atheist prejudice stems from moral distrust, not dislike, of nonbelievers.

"It's pretty remarkable," said Azim Shariff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the study, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?

The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.
Andrew Gelman points out that the researchers were fooled by the base rate fallacy. The study does not imply that atheists are distrusted at all, and only shows the low standards of one of the leading social science journals, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The current Amazon no. 11 top seller is currently Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I just mentioned that Pinker's book is selling well, but Kahneman's book is selling much better, and tops all the science-related books.

Kahneman is known for prospect theory, which is about the psychology of how people understand risk. If you read his book, you would probably understand what is wrong with the above atheist study. According to an Amazon review:
Here is one final example from Kahneman's work of some of the concepts the reader will encounter in this book. Suppose that Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. In college, she majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with the issues of discrimination and social justice, and she also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations. Which is more probable?

1. Linda is a bank teller.
2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

According to Kahneman, about 85% - 90% of undergraduates at several major universities chose the second option, that Linda was a bank teller and active in the feminist movement. However, this is an example of the "conjunction fallacy," since the probability of two events occurring together (in conjunction) must necessarily be less than the probability of either event occurring alone. Put simpler, the probability that Linda is a bank teller must be greater than the probability that she is a bank teller and active in feminist causes.
So the fictional driver is more likely to be a teacher than an atheist teacher, and more likely to be an atheist teacher than a rapist teacher.

These are really just trick questions that are especially contrived to trip people up. I only mention them because some major social science conclusions are manipulated from the ambiguity of the questions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Better angel analysis is weak

Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature is one of the better-selling science-related books of the year. As noted below, it claims that violence has declined over history in spite of Christianity.

Pinker's quantitative analysis seems to based on the assumption that violence should be expected to scale linearly with population size. So he compares the Mongol invasion to recent wars by counting deaths, as a proportion of the population at the time. His trick has the effect of making the Mongol invasion seem much more deadly than it was.

This assumption seems dubious. If we have a population of N people, and we assume that each pair of people has a 1% chance of being enemies, then we expect about 0.01N2 pairs of enemies. If violence occurs between enemies, then we might expect violence to grow quadratically in N.

However civilization would be impossible if violence grew that rapidly. Maybe it makes more sense to assume that potential friendships grow quadratically in N. Then maybe societies can use those friendships to self-organize into peaceful communities, and violence would grow sublinearly in N. Maybe violence only grows like the square root of N, or even the logarithm of N.

Pop psychologist John Gray reviews Pinker:
While Pinker makes a great show of relying on evidence — the 700-odd pages of this bulky treatise are stuffed with impressive-looking graphs and statistics — his argument that violence is on the way out does not, in the end, rest on scientific investigation. He cites numerous reasons for the change, including increasing wealth and the spread of democracy. For him, none is as important as the adoption of a particular view of the world: “The reason so many violent institutions succumbed within so short a span of time was that the arguments that slew them belong to a coherent philosophy that emerged during the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. The ideas of thinkers like Hobbes, Spinoza, Descartes, Locke, David Hume, Mary Astell, Kant, Beccaria, Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and John Stuart Mill coalesced into a worldview that we can call Enlightenment humanism.”
This is an odd list of thinkers to credit. Baruch Spinoza was big hero to Jewish atheists. Hardly anyone else has even heard of him. He was a Dutch Jew who believed that God was the universe, and that intuition was the highest kind of knowledge. Immanuel Kant was an unreadable German philosopher whose biggest achievement was to find a non-Christian rationale for the Golden Rule. Thomas Hobbes and David Hume were religious skeptics who were accused of being atheists. Cesare Beccaria wrote a book arguing that crimes should only be punished to the extent necessary, and that people should have access to guns to prevent crime. Thomas Jefferson is revered by Americans for writing the declaration that justified armed revolution against the British. So why does Pinker make him non-violence leader? My guess is that Pinker likes the Jefferson Bible, which was an attempt to remove the religion from the Gospels. (It removed God and miracles, and left the moral teachings.)

What do these have in common? It seems to me that Pinker has cherry-picked some intellectuals in a vain attempt to support his anti-Christian thesis. The Age of Enlightenment was very important, but it happened entirely within Christian Europe. The political leaders, peasants, and intellectuals were nearly all Christians. Christianity taught a message of peace. There were Jews and other groups, but their numbers and influence were far too small to have a significant effect on the violent crime rate or the war-making policy. If violent wars and crimes were declining, it seems crazy to argue that Christianity was not the major reason for the decline.

There are many Christian historians who know this subject much better than Pinker or me. I would like to see a serious rebuttal, as Pinker's book seems like anti-Christian propaganda to me.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Convicted man has alibi

The Houston Texas newspaper reports:
Sentenced to life in prison in November for armed robbery, LaDondrell Montgomery insisted he was not the shadowy figure on surveillance video. He swore the eyewitness identifying him were flat wrong.

If only the 36-year-old habitual offender had an alibi. If only he could remember exactly where he was that day of the robbery.

A week after jurors sentenced Montgomery, his attorney was researching the felon's lengthy rap sheet.

In that file was a report that had details about a 2009 arrest and an iron-clad alibi: He was in jail.

Released from custody about nine hours after the December 13, 2009 crime, Montgomery was actually innocent.
The judge's excuse is, "Both sides in this case were spectacularly incompetent." Maybe so, but the judge failed to give the man a fair trial.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Teaching evolution in medical school

Steve Jones complains about Moslems walking out on evolution lectures in medical school, and explains the value of such lectures:
A few years ago I had an operation to repair a hernia. In that I shared the experience of about one in four British men of my age, in whom a section of intestine breaks through the body wall to form an unpleasant, and potentially dangerous, bulge in the groin. The job was done quickly and efficiently by a surgeon who had, no doubt, done it hundreds of times before.

But why is that procedure needed so often? The story began long ago, when our ancestors were fish. In those happy days ...

Hernias, then, are the result of the imperfect process of evolution, of the slow accumulation of successful mistakes and of the inevitable pressure of compromise. A surgeon may not need to know that and the first hernia operations were carried out well before The Origin of Species by people who had no idea why the problem arose; and (although I doubt it) perhaps my own doctor was equally ignorant.

Now, though, we have evolution, the grammar of biology. More and more, students do not like it.
This is unconvincing. He seems to be saying that we have hernias because we are descended from fish. But unless there is some argument that we would not have hernias if we had not been descended from fish, then what does evolution has to do with it?

Furthermore, students attend medical school to learn medicine. Do stories of fish evolution somehow make it easier to do hernia surgeries?

Of course when evolutionists give these lectures, they cannot resist offending people by saying that Adam and Eve never existed and other such anti-religion messages.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Blago sentenced to 14 years

AP reports:
Rod Blagojevich, the ousted Illinois governor whose three-year battle against criminal charges became a national spectacle, was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday, one of the stiffest penalties imposed for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics.

Blagojevich's 18 convictions included allegations of trying to leverage his power to appoint someone to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to raise campaign cash or land a high-paying job....

But the judge made it clear early in the hearing that he believed that Blagojevich had lied on the witness stand when he tried to explain his scheming for the Senate seat, ...

It took two trials for prosecutors to snare Blagojevich on sweeping corruption charges. His first ended deadlocked with jurors agreeing on just one of 24 counts that Blagojevich lied to the FBI. Jurors at his retrial convicted him on 17 of 20 counts, including bribery and attempted extortion.

FBI wiretap evidence proved decisive. In the most notorious recording, Blagojevich is heard crowing that his chance to name someone to Obama's seat was "f---ing golden" and he wouldn't let it go "for f---ing nothing."
I defended Blago here and here. It took two juries to convict him, and he is being punished, in part, for testifying in his defense.

The prosecution was political. His fellow Democrats hated him for refusing to raise taxes. There was no objective evidence of corruption, such as a suitcase full of cash. If he were really corrupt, then they could have just offered him the money for the senate seat, and see if he accepts it. But they never caught him actually taking any bribes, or having unexplained bank accounts. Those quotes above are very weak evidence.

Here is a video of the Blago story.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Passwords and baby names

Here are the 25 most common passwords:
password 123456 12345678 qwerty abc123 monkey 1234567 letmein trustno1 dragon baseball 111111 iloveyou master sunshine ashley bailey passw0rd shadow 123123 654321 superman qazwsx michael football
And the popular baby names:
The top 10 girl's names of 2011: Sophia Emma Isabella Olivia Ava Lily Chloe Madison Emily Abigail

The top 10 boy's names of 2011: Aiden Jackson Mason Liam Jacob Jayden Ethan Noah Lucas Logan
Nothing made both lists.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Medicine’s dirty secrets

The WSJ reports:
This is one of medicine’s dirty secrets: Most results, including those that appear in top-flight peer-reviewed journals, can’t be reproduced.

“It’s a very serious and disturbing issue because it obviously misleads people” who implicitly trust findings published in a respected peer-reviewed journal, says Bruce Alberts, editor of Science. On Friday, the U.S. journal is devoting a large chunk of its Dec. 2 issue to the problem of scientific replication.
Medicine is much worse than the hard sciences. Remember that when you read the health headlines or hear a pitch for some hot new medical procedure or drug.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Jewish identity politics

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz attacked The Wandering Who? by Gilad Atzmon on Fox Business TV. His main purpose was to shame and intimidate anyone associated to the book. He is particularly upset about this endorsement by John Mearsheimer:
“Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.”
Dershowitz also hates Mearsheimer for co-writing an academic article and book on The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.

Atzmon is a famous jazz saxophonist who describes himself as a proud self-hating Jew, and responds to Deshowitz on his blog.

The book is not so much about Jews or Judaism, but about Jewish identity politics. That is, it concerns the views of people like Dershowitz, who don't necessarily have any Jewish religious beliefs, but are concerned with Jewish politics above all else. The most outrageous argument I found is that Israel is worse than Nazi Germany. That is absurd, but hardly anything to get excited about. I tend to be pro-Israel, but a lot of people disagree with things Israel does, and political arguments that make comparisons to Nazis are commonplace. The Left was frequently comparing George W. Bush to Hitler.

It seems to me that Dershowitz is just proving some of what Atzmon says. Dershowitz is preoccupied with Jewish identity politics and Zionism, and with launching vitriolic personal attacks against those who disagree. He supports preemptive war and torture to advance his causes. He also supports animal rights because he thinks humans are no better than animals. And he is very quick to call anyone an "anti-Semite" if they do not support his Jewish identity politics.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Pinker defines science

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne praises Pinker's new book:
I’ll include just one excerpt that I liked, for it bears on recent discussions we’ve had on this website. I particularly like his characterization of “science” in the second sentence, which is how I construe oue discipline broadly:
(p. 181) Though we cannot logically prove anything about the physical world, we are entitled to have confidence in certain beliefs about it.  The application of reason and observation to discover tentative generalizations about the world is what we call science.  The progress of science with its dazzling success at explaining and manipulating the world, shows that knowledge of the universe is possible, albeit always probabilistic and subject to revision. Science is thus a paradigm for how we ought to gain knowledge — not the particular methods or institutions of science but its value system, namely to seek to explain the world, to evaluate candidate explanations objectively, and to be cognizant of the tentativeness and uncertainty of our understanding at any time.
The definition of science was the essence of the Kansas evolution dispute, according to the NY Times and leading science organizations, and evolutionists convinced Kansas of a new definition. The leftist view denies that science is about truth, and relies on paradigms instead of evidence. I think that Aristotle had a better understanding of what science is.

In around 2005, Kansas decided:
The new definition adopted: "Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observations, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."
The evolutionists hated this definition.

Daniel B. Botkin writes a WSJ op-ed that absolute certainty is not scientific:
One of the changes among scientists in this century is the increasing number who believe that one can have complete and certain knowledge. For example, Michael J. Mumma, a NASA senior scientist who has led teams searching for evidence of life on Mars, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Based on evidence, what we do have is, unequivocally, the conditions for the emergence of life were present on Mars—period, end of story." ...

Some scientists make "period, end of story" claims that human-induced global warming definitely, absolutely either is or isn't happening. For me, the extreme limit of this attitude was expressed by economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, who wrote in his New York Times column in June, "Betraying the Planet" that "as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn't help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet." ...

Not only is it poor science to claim absolute truth, but it also leads to the kind of destructive and distrustful debate we've had in last decade about global warming.
The Pinker definition is lousy. He says that science is just a paradigm that cannot prove anything. He says that scientists are entitled to be confident as long as they realize that they may be wrong. He makes some specific claims about Christianity and violence. For these to be scientific, there should be some way for others to test and verify them. It sounds as if he just has some dubious hypotheses about the causes of violence.

Science can prove certain things. In connection with global warming, it has been proved that burning fossil fuels has substantially increased the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, and that CO2 absorbs infrared light. We can also measure these things quantitatively and reliably. Whether this has caused the observed warming of the last 50 years is a useful hypothesis, but not yet proved. Whether Krugman is seeing treason against the planet is just an opinion. This subject is greatly confused by those who claim the confidence of the dominant paradigm, but who do not have proof for what they claim.